Leaders of the Heartless Felons, a northern Ohio street gang, have issued orders to their members to kill white police officers in retaliation for black lives taken by other white officers, officials said earlier this week.
The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reports the Cuyhoga County Sheriff's Office received the tip and decided it was credible enough to circulate to other police departments in the Cleveland area.
John O’Brien, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, declined to provide details as to how the agency received the tip. He said officials feared disclosing such information would benefit the gang.
Representatives from Bedford and Maple Heights police departments confirmed they had heard rumors of potential upheaval but had not heard anything specific.
The Heartless Felons are said to be a fast-growing and violent gang with roots in the local juvenile detention system. Officials believe the gang has spread to the streets of the Cleveland area. It is reportedly the second largest prison gang in Ohio.
In response to the threat, the Solon Police Department issued a safety notice to its officers.
“This is a time period of turbulence and unrest that we have not experienced in a long time,” the notice read. “Be extra careful to watch your backs, on duty and off.”
It’s not the first time the gang has made headlines for threats to police officers.
In July, 28-year-old Donte Ferguson was indicted on gang activity charges, according to a story from WKYC News. Among those charges was that Ferguson — who is reported to be a founding member of the Heartless Felons — threatened a member of the Cleveland Police Department's gang unit after encountering the officer in a public space.
“Today's indictments represent another step in our continuing efforts to disable both the adult and the juvenile wings of the Heartless Felons,” said First Assistant County Prosecutor Duane Deskins at the time. “Mr. Ferguson is going to answer for his violent gang activities – and he is going to learn that we take threats against police officers very seriously.”
The current threats are thought to be in response to the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and other recent high-profile incidents across the country in which black men have been killed by white police officers.
Tamir Rice was shot dead by Cleveland officer Timothy Loehmann in November while the officer was responding to an emergency call that a black man was waving a gun in a park. The boy's gun turned out to be a toy, and the shooting is under review by a deadly force investigation team.